A massive thank you to Ad van Zyl for contributing to this month’s #IATakeover. Scroll down here if you missed out. For more of these incredible shots follow him on Instagram: @advanzyl_photography
When on safari you will learn so much about the animals and the bush – here are a few interesting facts to give you a head start.
The African Elephant is the world’s largest living land animal. Elephants have the largest brain of any mammal in history. They are extremely protective of their young. Did you know, like humans, elephants undergo menopause.
Like humans that use GPS, birds use landmarks to navigate long journeys. They can fly thousands of kilometres to find the same roosting spot with no navigational difficulties. Some species of birds make a round-trip journey every year, and use ferromagnetism to detect their orientation with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field. A 2006 study published in Animal Behaviour suggested that pigeons also use familiar landmarks on the ground below to help find their way home.
Did you know, crocodiles swallow stones to help them swim? Firstly, a crocodile digests everything from turtles, fish and birds to giraffes, buffalo, lions and even other crocodiles. In addition to their diverse appetite, they swallow large stones that stay permanently in their bellies. It’s been suggested these are used as weight stabilisers in diving.
The giraffe is known for its long neck and slender features. But did you ever consider the difficulties that come with having your head sit 16 feet above your shoulders? The stately giraffe adapted its neck to compete for foliage with other grazers. It compensates for its height with unique blood flow. The giraffe’s heart needs to pump twice as hard to get blood to the brain. It also has a complex blood vessel system that ensures that blood doesn’t rush to the head when bent over. Even more amazing, the giraffe has extremely tight skin in the legs to prevent blood from collecting at the hooves.
Did you know, Africa’s ostrich can kill a grown man with its kick? And one ostrich egg is the same size as 24 chicken eggs.
Vincent van Gogh was not the only one inspired by the night sky. Did you know that dung beetles use the Milky Way to guide them as they roll dung?
Like most cats, lions hate swimming. And keeping in sync with feminism, female lions do almost all of the hunting, and will make up to 20 kills in their lifetime.
Despite its questionable size and weight, the hippopotamus can run really fast reaching speeds of about 32 kilometres (or 20 miles) per hour.
Delight in the sighting of cheetah cubs as only a small proportion actually survive to adulthood – around a shocking 10%.
We hope just these few interesting facts have got you excited to go on safari! Hopefully you can mention one or two of them on a game drive to impress your guide or fellow guests!
No wildlife adventure can compete with coming face-to-face with a wild gorilla. This is an endangered species that will certainly take your breath away. Because their numbers are diminishing and because the treks are a highly-restricted activity, encountering wild gorillas is considered to be an unforgettable and essential travel experience. Here are a few things you need to know about gorillas, gorilla trekking and permits:
Tracking take place all year-long, even during Rwanda’s two rainy seasons. Despite muddy trails during, it does not rain all day.
Children under the age of 15 cannot track mountain gorillas. However, there are special activities offered by the lodge to keep the young ones occupied while the parents trek.
Wear practical clothing for your journey. Often guests are not dressed appropriate for the occasion and it can spoil their day as the focus is shifted from the gorillas to their discomfort. Wear protective clothing to protect you from nettles, thorns and branches. There are not many mosquitoes found on a trek, but there are flies and ants.
Make sure you have packed all the necessary gear like rain jackets, snacks and a packed lunch, a walking stick, and water.
Carry your gorilla permit with you as you leave your hotel the morning of your gorilla trek.
Don’t forget your passport along with your permit and gear as you head to the park for a safety briefing. Your gorilla permits will be crosschecked with your passports to verify that you are the right owner of the permit. Be prepared to begin your journey at any moment after the briefing as there is no certainty about the time you will take to meet your gorilla family.
It may take as little as 30 minutes to find your gorilla family and as long as five to seven hours.
You will be put in groups of up to 8 people and each group is assigned one gorilla family to track.
Guests are assigned to a group based on their age and fitness. Older and less fit guests are given the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families to track which usually stay close to the trail heads. If you are unsure about your fitness level, you should let your guide know and can hire a porter at the park gate. The fee is dependent on what he is going to be carrying.
Each group will have a pair of trackers sent out early before your trek to find the location of your specific gorilla family and to consider where they may be headed. Trackers communicate the gorilla family’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best route to meet your gorilla family.
The ‘easy-to-find’ gorilla families are not necessarily the better option as the animals may wander in search of food and water. Similarly, those gorilla families allocated to the physically fit guests and regarded as strenuous to track may be found quicker on a particular day.
Gorilla Tracking is safe and there have been no issues with security in both Rwanda and Uganda. Trackers are sent out before your trek to search for your group’s gorilla family and assume their movement patterns. The path is decided before you begin the trek. On your gorilla trek, rangers will guide you along with an armed escort. The reason for such protection is against wild elephants or angry gorillas. The scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions. Guides first ask trekkers to hide and remain quiet until the animal moves on.
Trekkers can follow the gorillas if they are moving but at a recommended distance of no less than 7 metres.
Trekkers are advised to stay quiet, and move slowly. Avoid sudden movements and direct eye contact in order to not irritate the gorilla. Lower your gaze to indicate that you are submissive.
Take as many photos as you’d like but remember to remove the flash and sound.
Iconic Africa will guide you through the booking process for your gorilla trekking permits. It is a hassle-free process, but should be booked at least ten months in advance as they sell out quickly and there are only a limited amount of permits available.
Do not make the mistake most travellers make – making gorilla trekking an add-on experience. This once-in-a-lifetime experience should not be an afterthought. Avoid hearing that permits are sold out and book yours now!
Three hours from Arusha lies one of the iconic natural wonders of the world that leaves travellers speechless!
“It is impossible to give a fair description of the size and beauty of the Crater for there is nothing with which one can compare with it. It is one of the wonders of the world.” Bernhard and Michael Grzimek.
This month’s property of the month is perched on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater – once an enormous volcano which has become an ecosystem in itself and home to an unbelievable collection of game. The exquisite salt lake, fever tree forests, leafy woodlands, lush swamps and golden savannahs within the crater combine to make it feel like a more modern, African version of the Garden of Eden.
The lodge boasts some of the best 360-degree views of the wildlife haven; offers a magical, romantic setting along with an abundance of enchanting delights and delicacies. Fit for royalty, the ornate architecture, dramatic interiors and the most opulent finishes, transport you into a world like none you’ve ever been to or even dreamt of before.
Separated into three camps, North, South and Tree Camp each one has its own secluded wonderland and character. Colonial, meets European, meets Maasai, meets Baroque, there is not one distinct influence at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge but a little bit of everything. This is what makes it so foreign, romantic and magical, the perfect escape from everyday life.
After a lovely game drive down in the crater, some beading with the Maasai ladies or some archery for the kids, a decadent evening drink awaits you on the deck or in the cosy sitting room. The food is very definitely fit for kings, the plates gold, the service silver and the flavours vibrant and colourful. Whether you choose the brandied chicken liver parfait, the grilled beef fillet with potato rosti, the homemade panna cotta, or all three and more you will no doubt be wholeheartedly thrilled.
As one of andbeyond’s flagship properties the team at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge have heaps of experience and certainly know how to you win you over. For more on this magical destination click here.
“The only thing dark about Africa is our ignorance of it.” – George Kimble
Many people have preconceived ideas about Africa – often based on opinions or myths. Some of these myths have been circulating for so long that they now are in fact considered as truth or fact. Misconceptions are awful things, managing to dissuade many from visiting Africa – which is very sad! Here are our top five African safari myths debunked to convince you to finally book that unforgettable African trip.
Africa is not safe:
Safety can be an issue in some African cities as it can be anywhere in the world now, but when it comes to national parks and game reserves, they are some of the safest places in the world.
Africa is all bush:
Africa is a vast continent with diverse landscapes, environments and climates in a single area. Countries have savannahs, rainforests, mountains, beaches and deserts to accommodate different travel wishes – making it easy to find whatever it is that your heart desires!
You always need a guide:
While it would be recommended that first-time traveller’s view game with a guide – once you’ve been on enough safaris you can go on self-drive safaris. Many travellers have seen the super-seven (the Big Five, cheetahs and wild dogs) on their self-drives.
To truly experience Africa, you have to “rough it”:
There is always the option of “roughing it” in the wilderness – sleeping bag and all. But there is the more popular preference and opportunity, to experience all Africa has to offer in comfort and opulence. South Africa boasts some of the most luxurious game lodges offering unrestricted access to some of Africa’s prestigious wildlife. Most game lodges offer gourmet meals and private bungalows – kitted out with all your modern amenities – that overlook the vast plains and Africa’s vibrant wildlife. Not to mention it offers some of the world’s most affordable luxury travel!
It will be too hot:
Yes, Africa’s climate is warm, but not all the time. Some countries have a cold, wet winter and others have a rainy summer. Throughout the year, most game reserves can actually get quite chilly in the morning and at night, and you will need to layer to stay warm. This’s a nice balance between the heat of the day and the cool of the night.
Animals are likely to attack you:
Animals attacking is probably the last thing you need to worry about on your safari! The wildlife, in general, prefer to avoid the company of humans, so they won’t be hunting you down any time soon…
Only expensive cameras can take good wildlife photographs:
If you own a long lens it is of course advantageous, however it is not a necessity. Many people have photographed animals within meters of the safari vehicle with a 300mm lens. What works well – if you already have one – is the Nikon D7000 with 18 megapixels. The resolution is decent and you could crop the far-away shots.
Our suggestion is that when you embark on your trip to Africa, you leave behind all myths and legends. Once you hit the tarmac, your adventure begins and you will never look back!
2017 has been a fun and incredible year for us. From the magic of the Mara, to the endless Kalahari, to the abundance of Kruger and the beauty of the Cape – we’ve seen, explored and revelled in so much that Africa has to offer. Just in case you have missed out – scroll down here… for Our Year in Pictures.
We hope that in just a few #iconicmoments – these photographs will transport you to the wonder that awaits! Perhaps you will pay us a visit in 2018? We’d love to show you around!